What's Important

I talk to people all the time who want to invest and earn money. There's nothing wrong with that, in fact it's a wonderful pursuit to reach your financial goals and give your family as many options as possible in how they live their lives. But I frequently encounter individuals who haven't thought beyond "I want to earn a lot of money." Money itself isn't a goal; it just gives you the opportunity to choose.

In order to really understand yourself as an investor, you must understand what is truly important for you. For me - it's family. The first time I traveled to Croatia was in 1979; I was 7 years old. I saw firsthand where my parents lived as children and got a taste for how they grew up. My mom's home was in a small village in the mountains. Her parents were farmers and their entire home was just one room, maybe 20' x 20' in size. There was no running water or electricity.

I remember first thing in the morning, we would walk the donkey with a big water jug on its back to a stream four miles away. We would fill it up and head another four miles back to the house. That was our water supply for the day. The life they lived was very hard compared to what I knew, yet they did what they had to do without complaint. My parents were surrounded by unconditional love - something they passed on to me - and they always had a roof over their heads and something to eat. They were always happy as children and never knew about all the luxuries and excess in the Western World. My mom had to walk miles to school, as a child, trying to imagine that was very hard. That summer, we celebrated my brother Mike's, 6th birthday. I remember my Grandma putting on a pot of boiling water on the wood stove while my Grandpa went out to the chicken coup to find his biggest chicken. That was the first time I ever saw a chicken run with its head cut off! This was his prized possession and the best gift he had to give us all to celebrate my brother's birthday. We had a wonderful family feast.

The trip really taught me to appreciate how easy my life is and that you really don't need a lot of 'stuff' to be content. I think back on the experience and the life I lead today. I help people reach their dreams of financial freedom and peace. Not so they can be the richest person in the cemetery, but so they can choose how they and their families live. That is what is important and it's why I do what I do - to help them accomplish those goals through well thought out financial plans and advice. While I was writing my new book, Set for Life: Financial Peace of Mind Made Easy, I once again had the opportunity to visit Croatia and much has changed, but the people haven't. Their dreams are just as strong as is their love of life. It's proof to me that happiness is still found in the simplest pleasures, and true peace has little to do with the amount in your bank account.

John Svalina

John is Vice President and Portfolio Manager for TD Waterhouse Private Client Services in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He has just released his latest book: Set for Life: Financial Peace of Mind Made Easy.

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